Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Porpoises and Purpose

Last week there were a lot of sightings of Porpoises in the Texelstroom off Oudeschild on Texel; much more than usual. So when Karien wanted to check this out, I was easily persuaded.

I joined Karien, Geert and Hauke from the Texel sea kayak club. Just drifting with the ebbing tide towards Mokbaai we soon were amidst a pod of three porpoises that just kept doing 'their thing' without really taking notice of us.

They were all around us. I never have been so close to porpoises before; they generally are quite 'shy'. It was interesting to see them intermittently lie totally still at the surface of the water (resting?) before diving again.

The only 'drawback' was that the porpoises did not care about my positioning with the sunlight to take pictures and shoot some film. With so many camera's ready, we had more than enough good pictures and some really funny shots!

Geert and Hauke both work for the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and Geert took with him a hydrophone and I could hear the porpoises make a high pitch 'rattling' sound. Also he had a good telephoto camera with him to make the best close-up shots.

Porpoises generally are in this area at this time of year. In the past five years there are increased sightings. Overall we spend more than two hours among them until the ebb tide had brought us and the porpoises to the Mokbaai and we returned to Oudeschild on the beginning of the flood.

Listen for the sound of a Porpoise or read more about whale sightings in the Netherlands on

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Baja Niña Reflections

Whenever we landed at a spot where other people were I got the question: "How did I get so lucky guiding a group of only women?" I never found any prompt answer at the time, but looking back at the pictures that 'the girls' made of me, now I think I should have answered: "Because of my yellow clogs !"
My second time guiding in Parque Nacional de Bahia Loreto was planned as a thirteen-day trip linking the islands of Coronados, Carmen, Danzante and Montserrat out of Loreto in Mexico's Baja California Sur. Planned, because any kayaking trip itinerary is weather dependant. For us it started on the second day with a force 5/6 from the north with a 'Yachters Net' small craft advisory for breezy whitecap conditions. So our crossing was postponed a day where we still found interesting rough sea conditions on the Northwest coast of Carmen.
The general weather was blue skies and off-and-on windy. Our three 8-10 nautical mile crossings proved to be 'interesting'. With one two-and-a-half hours slog from Montserrat back to the mainland against a 20 knot headwind; not quite from the direction it was 'forecasted'... And being half-way into the, until then flat-calm, crossing, what to do else...
We made it, but the night on the mainland was even worse with the strongest arroyo downdrafts I have ever experienced. Winds ricocheting from the arroyo walls building-up to 'wind explosions'. Next morning I found the kayaks and the tents 're-arranged'. One was sleeping ON her tent. Another had taken down her tent as a precaution. Fortunately no damage or lost equipment. A welcome rest day at the hot springs were my yellow clogs served as bath ducks.
Too much experiences to share for now. We saw a lot of whales. The comment was that long crossings are less boring when there are whales around. We saw Finback whales frequently and every now and then a Blue whale from 100 yards distance or more. They where all over the place. After dark and into the night we could still hear the Finbacks breath with their distinctive sound.
This year was a La Niña year. Somewhat different than other years. I should have known. So maybe it was not only my yellow clogs that made the difference.
Sea kayaks, equipment and local logistics were provided by
Sea Kayak Baja Mexico. SKBM uses Nigel Dennis sea kayaks, Werner paddles and Kokatat PFD's.

For a full length slide-show, click here.
For a Google Earth GPS track of the trip, click here.
Baja Whale Encounters